The pubs are open. Well the outsides, toilets and the bar are but it’s a start. I said I’d be good and not go until the Friday. I stuck to my word despite having two invites on Monday within minutes of each other and another for Thursday so as you can bet by Friday I was gasping for a pint. A pint or two of real ale. Lock down one I didn’t have any alcohol for the whole duration but that’s not been the case since November, and I’ve downed gallons of cider in that time. I’m not one for drinking lager out of a can, and I can pull a perfect pint of ale in a pub but try and pour it out of a bottle into a glass and it’s so flat that even The Netherlands is giving envious glances.
Fortunately work was stupidly busy on Friday so the day flew by and soon it was clocking off time. I had the George Michael song “Outside” in my head as I walked in Bilston but when Mr Michael wrote it I don’t think he was on about the ballache of just trying to get a pint in a public house nowadays.
So I met up with a former workmate Andrew and we jumped in a taxi and soon were heading into The Wheatsheaf with my former housemate Comedy Dave. I got flustered/overcome with excitement just at signing in putting my name where the date should have gone then having to scribble things out and making my entry look like a 5 year old’s first attempt at drawing. But, there was room at the inn, or outside of it. A bench which seated 3 and we darted to it. My Castle Rock “Harvest Pale” soon arrived and disappeared even quicker. Nods and greetings were exchanged with other regulars, then a table became available which we jumped on, and were treated to occasional company from an extremely laid back dog. A pint of Wainwrights followed then it was moving on time.
There was no queue outside the Walsall Arms which was a relief as I thought this was the place we might struggle to get in. But there was actually a couple of tables available so all was good, as was the Wye Valley HPA.
After two pints we headed to The Lyndon House. The place has got the most picturesque beer garden in Walsall, tucked away at the rear of the pub hence my calling it The Secret Garden but it sadly has now been mostly encased in a tent. I ordered Enville White and raised the glass in tribute to Ken Towe who owned the pub until his sad passing in December.
With the sun now very much clocked off for the day and headed no doubt to a pub itself the temperature was dropping so it was nice that in here blankets and throws had been provided. We took full advantage as did mates Josh and Mitchel who joined us for a pint. The music was good too as we were treated to one of the best songs of 1989 “Numero Uno” by Starlight.
Our last port of call for the night was Black Country Arms. This place has won the Walsall CAMRA Pub Of The Year so many times that I’ve suggested they take on the building next door to make room for all of the certificates. If you don’t know this place they have 20 draught beers on, the names and style of which are displayed on screens throughout the building. The screens list 10 beers at a time, and the pages change frequently so you get to see all 20 and I love this as it makes me think I’m choosing my beer via Ceefax.
There are no screens outside though so I was wondering how we would glean this information without them. Apparently there is an app that you can install which will tell you all of this, but I’m not really down with apps. I’ve just about got Twitter on my phone and that will do. I was hoping that the staff would recite all the beers backwards from number 20 to 1 whilst everyone hummed the Pick Of The Pops theme tune. “At number 3 it’s quite lidderally Salopian Brewery with their smash hit “Lemon Dream”. Turned out that there were pieces of paper on the benches with the beers on as well, perfect for us technophobes.
The beer was in excellent nick and it was a pleasant visit, sat out back in what was the car park. At 10pm we revelled in the fact that we were at a pub and that ridiculous curfew was a thing of the past. By 10.01 though we were like “it’s really cold” so we called it a night but what a great first evening.
The plan for Saturday was meet friends in Black Country Arms and stay for a couple of hours then do a few more pubs for “blog research”. Those couple of hours turned into about 5. It was such a class afternoon with really good friends. Talking Walsall FC, raising a glass to Prince Phillip, and celebrating that HMS We Are Staying Up is ready to set sail (although that defeat at Colchester might have stalled the champagne bottle being smashed against her).
The beer again was ace. I had brews from Salopian, Bewdley Brewery and the final was a Titanic Raspberry Pale which I’d not had before which was ace and not the kind you’d find in a second hand store. Snacks were good too. The obligatory black pudding, cheese and onion cob was epic and Mase crashed the pork scratchings too. Sitting in the sun, supping ale and eating scratchings was just perfect. Like that scene in Shawshank Redemption when they drink beer on the prison roof. All we need now is to be let back in Bescot Stadium again and have some of those Walsall FC scratchings then we know all is good in the world again.
Upon leaving the BCA I planned to pop to The Pretty Bricks but there was no bus due and with the combination of weak bladder and 5 hours of ale I didn’t fancy walking so I popped to Bar 10 (formerly The Wharf Bar) as this now has new people running it so needed to be re-ticked. No queue to get in and I was quickly given a table. Within a couple of minutes though there were people waiting and conscious that I was occupying a table for 4, I quickly necked my pint and vacated. On the way out I heard my name called and saw friends Paul and Nigel who I’ve not seen for a very a long time. Another good Walsall FC chat ensued which went on much longer than the time it took to polish off my drink. I had a quick toilet visit and saw the angriest do not use sign on the hand dryer, and as I’m a good boy I didn’t.
I tried to get in The Registry as a mate was in there but I was turned away due to lack of space, St Matthews Hall and The Watering Trough both had queues so I carried on and headed to The Walsall Arms. I timed this arrival perfectly as the landlady Jaz was just doing the rounds with some free nibbles “to warm people up”. These were very much appreciated, and washed down with another HPA.
And with that I called it a night. Two superb occasions, and seeing really good people. A big thank you to all the pub staff and licencees who have all performed superbly in bizarre and challenging conditions. It’s good to be back.